The PJ Tatler

Labor Secretary Asked to Pressure Businesses to Make Thanksgiving Easier on Workers

A New York Democrat argued to Labor Secretary Tom Perez in a letter today that the federal government should do more to make sure workers are treated fairly on Thanksgiving.

Rep. Steve Israel told Perez that as working families watch “their pay checks shrink,” more employees “find themselves working in retail on Thanksgiving — away from their families and with no additional compensation.”

“Thanksgiving Day was once understood to be a time for families to sit down at the dinner table, give thanks for the good in their lives, and be a respite from the chaos of daily life. While we know that some have always had to work on Thanksgiving there has been a gradual creep of retail stores opening on the holiday itself,” Israel wrote.

Stores opening on Thanksgiving to get early Black Friday shoppers include Walmart, Target, Macy’s, Sears, Kmart, J.C. Penney, Staples and Toys ‘R’ Us.

“We understand that people choose to shop on Thanksgiving and that stores would not open if it was not profitable to them,” Israel wrote. “That is why we believe the workers, who do not have a choice, should receive overtime pay. Some states require this and in ones that don’t, many companies already provide such overtime, but all should out of respect for those workers who have to leave their families on what is supposed to be a day to gather with loved ones and give thanks.”

“We believe the Department of Labor can play a role in encouraging companies to do the right thing. Specifically, we ask DOL to encourage companies to: 1) first ask for volunteers to work on Thanksgiving Day; and 2) provide overtime or holiday pay for those who work. At your earliest convenience, please advise how you will work on these efforts.”

Eleven of Israel’s colleagues joined him in signing the letter to Perez.

“The Department of Labor has done important work on behalf of workers around the country and we hope you will continue this leadership to ensure workers have an opportunity to spend time with their families and loved ones on holidays.”